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Fact or Fiction: What To Make of Latest Rumors as NFL Draft Nears

One of the complicated parts of the NFL offseason is navigating through which rumors are fact and fiction. Sometimes false rumors are purposely floated to the public. Other times, the information out there is completely accurate.

The 2023 NFL Draft is three weeks away, so the information coming out will be all over the place. Let's take a look at some of the recent information floating around and dissect if there's any truth to it:

Panthers Have QB1?

Chatter: Carolina Is Locked on C.J. Stroud

The Carolina Panthers traded for the No. 1 overall pick without knowing which quarterback they'd take. They did it to ensure they got the top guy on their board and didn't have to settle for who was left.

Many mocks and even the betting markets have Carolina going with C.J. Stroud (scouting report), but Alabama's Bryce Young (scouting report) should not be ruled out. Panthers ownership is heavily involved in the process and will be part of the decision. If Young were 6-foot-2, 215 pounds instead of 5-foot-10, 204 pounds, this wouldn't be much of a debate.

But he's not, and that's part of the ongoing discussion in Carolina. Many people are leaning toward Stroud with this pick, but that's not a done deal yet.

Conclusion: Fiction

Cardinals Want Out?

Cardinals GM Monti Ossenfort

Chatter: Arizona Wants to Trade Back From No. 3 

The Arizona Cardinals are entering a new era with general manager Monti Ossenfort and coach Jonathan Gannon – and they're going to go into their first year with QB Kyler Murray recovering from ACL surgery. Arizona's roster is last in the NFL in homegrown talent. Ossenfort was hired, in part, because of his scouting background and draft-and-develop philosophy.

The Cardinals are in a prime position to slide down and accumulate more draft assets, and Ossenfort hasn't been scared to admit they're open to it. The only question is whether they can get proper value from a team likely moving up to get a quarterback. The Cardinals have eight picks in this year's draft, and it's safe to assume they want more to build a respectable roster.

Conclusion: Fact

Titans Want to Move Up?

Chatter: Tennessee Could Trade Up to No. 3

The Tennessee Titans are sitting at No. 11, and they've been doing their homework on the top prospects in this year's draft class. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill has no guaranteed money left on his deal, and there's no indication he's 100 percent their guy moving forward. Ossenfort came from Tennessee and had a relationship with Titans coach Mike Vrabel if the two teams wanted to make a deal.

>> READ: Mock Draft 4.3

However, new Titans general manager Ran Carthon arrived from the San Francisco 49ers, and they made a similar jump when he was there, giving up many picks to move from No. 12 to No. 3 to draft Trey Lance. That has not worked out so far, and Tennessee has plenty of holes to fill on its roster besides quarterback.

It's reasonable that Tennessee could move up to secure a quarterback it loves, but it wouldn't be surprising if moving up to No. 3 is too rich. The Buffalo Bills were in a similar situation in 2018 when they drafted Josh Allen. They were sitting at No. 12 and tried to move up to No. 2 or No. 4 to secure Allen, but the price was too steep. They eventually struck a deal to move to No. 7 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and didn't have to give up any future first-round picks. That could be the route Tennessee takes if a quarterback it loves drops.

Conclusion: Fact ... depending on the price

Surprise First-Round QB?

Chatter: Hendon Hooker Will Go in Round 1

I've seen several mock drafts in recent days with Tennessee QB Hendon Hooker (scouting report) going in Round 1. Teams not in the quarterback market have a hard time seeing it. His age (25) and his injury (ACL tear in November) are part of it, but one person told me that even if there was no injury, he likely doesn't go in Round 1. 

"This stuff happens every year where the quarterback position is the most talked about one, and all of a sudden, a guy who doesn't belong in Round 1 is being talked about going there," the executive said. 

>>READ: Hooker Is Unique Case Study

Hooker has the prototypical quarterback tools and has impressed teams in meetings, but there are questions regarding Tennessee's offense and how it translates to the NFL. Could a team fall in love with Hooker and take him in Round 1? Sure. But when looking at the big-picture, those around the league have a hard time seeing it. We'll see where things go in the next few weeks. 

Conclusion: Fiction

Rodgers Deal Crumbling?

Chatter: Aaron Rodgers Trade Could Fall Apart

The New York Jets and Green Bay Packers remain stuck on the compensation for quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Still, there was buzz exiting the owners' meetings in Arizona that this was slowly moving in the right direction, and the conditions for the future picks are part of the holdup.

The Packers want to move him, the Jets want to get him and Rodgers wants to be a Jet. All three parties want the same result. The draft is the next deadline for this to get done. As we all know, deadlines spur action. Something unforeseen would have to happen for Rodgers not to be on the Jets.

Conclusion: Fiction

Jackson Back to Ravens?

Chatter: Lamar Jackson Has No Option but Baltimore

Lamar Jackson has been eligible to talk with other teams since March 15, but no team stepped forward to make an offer or even meet with the 2019  NFL MVP. It seems unlikely anything will transpire before the draft, but after that is when things get interesting. As mentioned last week, a team picking high in this year's draft may not want to surrender its first-round pick for Jackson.

>> DEBATE: How Will Ravens-Jackson Stalemate End?

If the team waits until after the draft, it would give up future picks, so if Jackson continues to be the player we all know, the pick next year should be near the back end of the first round. For example, the Indianapolis Colts could take Will Anderson (scouting report) at No. 4 and circle back to Jackson in early May.

The Titans, who pick at No. 11, also could take that approach. This is just thinking out loud, but at this point, that's Jackson's best chance at getting a team to step forward. If that doesn't happen, Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens will have to take another swing at figuring something out. The deadline for Jackson to sign a long-term deal is July 17.

Conclusion: Fact ... for now